Many people identify heavily with their sports teams. Locally, the presence of the Red Sox Nation and its citizens are ubiquitous. Red Sox t-shirts, hats and bumper stickers are everywhere. We like sports because anything can happen and often does.
Man of War is considered by many to be the greatest race horse of all time. He was undefeated during his career except for a 100-to-1 horse that handed him his one and only defeat. The horses name was Upset, and that word now describes improbable outcomes in sports to this day.
Who could forget the Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid? The Russians were the greatest hockey team in the world and dominated everyone. The American team featured a group of college players that came in ranked 7 out of 11 teams. "Do you believe in miracles?" The Miracle Mets and the NY Jets with "Broadway Joe" at quarterback are just two of the many sports miracles that demonstrate how compelling and attractive the story of the underdog is.
We mortals take satisfaction when the great gods of sports lose to lesser opponents. We forgive athletes that struggle with drug addiction or alcohol abuse, but don't cheat - that we cannot give.
Pete Rose arguably one of the greatest natural hitters of all time bet on baseball games and has never been forgiven. Similarly, the 1919 White Sox, later dubbed the "Black Sox" would never be forgiven for fixing the World Series. We expect a fidelity to the game, no exceptions.
Sports have also provided an important vehicle for social change. Some say that Jackie Robinson's play did more to promote social justice than almost anything else. We like that sports provide the meritocracy that we so often reference in America. If you have the talent, you play, and if you do not, you don't. You might get into an Ivy League school on a legacy admission because your parents went there before you, but you won't play college or professional sports on that basis. Having a politician call the coach to put you in the game won't work, and knowing the right people won't help either. Athletes that play on the professional level have earned their right to play.
As Americans, I think we admire people that work really hard and have earned their position. Professional athletes are far from perfect, in that regard, they are just like us. Remember all kids count.
Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org